Nothing can take the place of performance practice -says Leontine Hass
I am having a lot of issues with my confidence. When I get up to sing my abdomen literally starts shaking. My voice becomes impossible to control and I cannot sing as well as I can by myself. Is there anything I can do?
You would be absolutely amazed how many singers have confidence issues and are undone by nerves.
The secret is that performing takes as much practice as the technical and artistic aspects of your voice.
Singing lessons are vital, and understanding how your instrument works, and having a sound vocal technique, are certainly the foundations to becoming a confident performer.
However, nothing can take the place of performance practice.
The first thing I do with singers suffering from nerves is to ask them to observe themselves as they sing.
I want them to notice which parts of their anatomy seize up or become tense.
It is not at all helpful to tell someone not to be nervous.
One has to accept the nerves and the physical repercussions, and work within this state rather than trying to push it away.
The more you try to block the nerves, the more they will affect you.
Try to accept and understand your nerves. Typically nerves affect the breath and the tongue root. The breath can become very high, which causes sub-glottic pressure.
This means that there is a lot of air pressure immediately under the vocal folds, which makes vocalizing much more difficult.
Extra tension in the tongue root will make it difficult to lift the larynx, which affects the production of high notes.
Watch both these areas and try to breathe into your lower ribcage in a fairly natural manner.
I was recently talking to a German speech therapist, Annette Cramer.
She told me that babies who have trouble speaking often have tightly closed fists.
She works with exercises to open their hands before attempting voice work.
Similarly, I was talking to a helicopter pilot who explained that when he trains people for their license, he asks them to keep their hands open and relaxed.
Tight hands tend to cause more tension in the body. The more tension there is in the body, the more carbon dioxide is produced (which incidentally makes you have to go to the toilet).
In other words, tension travels. If you have any tension in one part of your body, or in your hands, other areas will be affected.
Finally, the more you can learn to get up and entertain a few people, the better.
It does not need to be a glamorous affair.
Simply singing to a few friends would be enough to enable you to get a bit of performance practice in.
Alternatively find an open mic night, or a place where you can take performing workshops.
After 3 weeks of performing regularly, you should be raring to go!